Ahh the Nation’s capital, where you can find amazing history, good food, and hippies galore with more causes then deodorant. I have been to Washington D.C. several times in the past couple of years. I have always loved the city, it reminds me a lot of New York in a way; that is if New York got a haircut, a shave and put on a good suit. The history and art are unmatched and with all the free museums I can finally see where the 30% + that is taken from my paycheck is being spent.
Washington D.C. is packed with activities and every season has a different feel. Speaking of different feels, the city has a noticeable change from the last two times I have visited it. I’m not sure if it was the heat of the summer or the lunatic in the White House, but there is definitely more tension in the air. Still any American (or anyone for that matter) who wants to get a true understanding of American history needs to come to this city. There is so much to do, the food is good (maybe not New York good) and with so much history, it is the most important city in the country.
So, onto the highs and lows of the Nation’s Capital, Washington D.C.
The Good: Washington D.C. Monuments
You know all those National Treasure movies…well it’s time to see those landmarks in person. As a side, no way in hell that dude is getting into any of those security laden areas. No matter how many times I visit this city I am drawn to and remain in awe of the monuments. The Washington Monument is amazing (whoever designed it had a very high opinion of Washington), and needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated it. My absolute favorite is the Lincoln Memorial.
Take the long stroll past the Reflecting Pools to get to the memorial and you can overlook much of the city from the stairs. We are drawn to this site every time we visit, the inscriptions and the statue itself can’t be missed. Be sure find the footprints where Martin Luther King stood giving his famous Dream speech. The only thing I don’t like about it are the tourists who take selfies and almost look bored lounging on the steps.
There are so many other monuments that I am not doing the area justice, I can’t mention everything, but be sure to visit the World War Two Memorial, Vietnam Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial.
The Good: Washington D.C. Museums
I believe Washington surpasses New York with the sheer volume of museums. You have all the Smithsonian’s, The National Gallery, Ford’s Theater, and the Spy museum to name a few. The best part about it is most of them are free. Well free in the sense anyone can just walk in, not if you take into consideration how much we get screwed every year on April 15th. The Spy Museum and Ford’s Theater do have a fee. I can’t speak for the Spy Museum, but Ford’s Theater is worth the price of admission. It is nice to be able to spend an entire day seeing history and not have to reach into your wallet too deeply.
Mixed Feelings: Food in DC/Georgetown D.C.
I know when I only gain two pounds on a trip the food isn’t as amazing as it could be. D.C. has its bright spots, and it even made it onto my top cities for foodies post. There were a lot of meals I had that were good, but nothing I would consider outstanding. I had decent soup dumplings in Georgetown at Dumplings & Beyond. They were good, not great, with no alcohol available. Plus, I had to hire a private detective to find my waiter the service was so bad.
There were some highlights, China Boy is always good for quick, cheap dumplings. I also never had a bad meal Sichuan Pavilion (we eat a lot of Chinese in D.C.), it is always our first spot for dinner. Lastly, I need to mention once again (mentioned it in my previous foodie post) a spot in Crystal City, the delicious kabob joint Kabob Palace. I don’t care if my Turkish friends laughed at it, the place (which is open 24 hours) serves some of the best kabobs I have ever had. Kabob Palace in Washington DC is definitely worth a stop for some good cheap middle eastern food.
I will also say for those who enjoy an adult cocktail, the Round Robin Bar is also a must. Not to be confused with a place to get endless fries and a colon cleanse. The Round Robin Bar is a high-end bar located in the Willard Hotel. The place is beautiful, classy and all the drinks are spectacular. You shouldn’t be ordering just any drinks though, the mint julep was invented here and it needs to be tried. At $15 a glass it might seem high for one cocktail, but they are well worth it.
Mixed Feelings: Expense in Washington D.C./Georgetown
At times D.C. felt very reasonable, and at other times I felt like I was in Deliverance because of how badly I was being ripped off. Drinks in D.C. were pretty much the same price as other cities, even cheaper than those in Charlotte. Hotels are sometimes reasonable, we stayed at the Hotel Lombardy for around $100/night, a 4-star hotel close to the White House. I have stayed at the Willard for a little over $200 a night, it is worth every penny. Yet, like most cities, prices vary greatly from one weekend to the next. Food felt like it was a bit pricier than in other cities, nothing outrageous, but nothing that I would call a great deal.
Parking is really where they screw you, our hotel charged $40/night parking. It is almost better getting your car its own room in the city. There are other parking decks available throughout the city, but most of them are closed on Sunday rendering them useless. It creates a situation like a roach motel…cars go in, but don’t come out. Overall Washington DC is neither a deal nor overly expensive.
The Bad About Washington DC: Crowds
Given that so much is free the city is a mecca for every class trip or family getaway. Washington D.C. gets very crowded, especially near the monuments and the Smithsonian Museums. Kids sitting and climbing on Lincoln like he is a playground. That is something I find annoying about people, who probably never even cracked a history book outside of being forced to, taking a selfie near a major historical monument.
Some of the museums are worse than others, but at peak times they are all a mad house. The Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum are both mucus factories, with thousands of little kids stuffed into them. I can feel myself getting hand, foot, and mouth disease just by touching the door. Some of the other areas aren’t as bad, so pick your spots and times wisely.
The Bad National Museum of African American History and Culture (How it is Operated)
This is not a testament of the museum itself, I never actually entered the establishment. This is geared more toward how it is run. After walking 30 minutes in 90+ degrees we get to the gate and are immediately and rudely blocked while trying to enter. We are then told “as it says on the website you need tickets to enter.” In true government official fashion, they create a awful, complicated policy and make it our fault when it isn’t understood. No one thinks to put a sign up? No one thinks, since EVERY OTHER DAMN MUSEUM can be entered freely that this should be as well? I never actually could get into the museum, I am sure it is wonderful, but I wouldn’t know.
The Ugly About D.C.: Our Current Political Environment (i.e. Trump)
Trump has created an almost depressing environment that can be felt throughout the area. I am no liberal by any means…in fact I think it is a four-letter word, but this guy is hated by both parties for the utter stupidity and classlessness that comes out of his mouth. The atmosphere now is thick with tension, there are addition barriers and restrictions everywhere. Look at the picture above, it tells you all you need to know about how inclusive the city feels. The White house was closed off, even more than normal, with the street in front of it blocked with tape. What is worse, is that it attracts every tree hugging protestor from here to Seattle. The whole city just felt uneasy and I blame this environment..
I am by no means an expert to speak about Georgetown, I only spent about half a day there. Of course, not being an expert never stopped me from dolling out advice. The area was pleasant with a college feel to it and a lot of interesting restaurants and bars. We visited the Exorcist Stairs, which are famous for a scene in the movie by the same name. They really looked like stairs, but if you are a movie buff they are easy to get to and worth checking out. You can then go to The Tombs, a bar right around the corner, where St Elmo’s Fire had many scenes filmed.
The best attraction in Georgetown is the National Cathedral. I suspect this is a site that is missed by most when visiting the area. It should not be, the building is beautiful and there is a lot of history in it. There are many famous people buried here, including Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller. The building itself is massive and there seems to be some strange art work in every nook of the building. I think, at least on your second trip, you would be cheating yourself by not visiting Georgetown. One thing, there is a cost of I believe $12 to visit this Cathedral.
To tie it all up, D.C. is great town, with tons of free things to do. If you are visiting for a short time hit the major attractions like the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials. You should also fit in as many free Smithsonian Museums as you can. End your day with a strong mint julip from the Round Robin bar. If you have time hit Ford’s Theater and take an Uber to Georgetown to see the National Cathedral. Wrap it all by hitting Kabob Palace on your way out. I can’t imagine you having a bad time following this advice..